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Analyzing How The Character In Jon Krakauer’s Into The Wild Lived In The Wilderness And Society

Living Similar Lives

Day after day, many individuals decide to live their life in solitary; though, only a few choose to live in the wild. The book, Into the Wild, Jon Krakauer vividly paints the adventurous trek Chris McCandless went on. From the friends he made, to the hardships he went through, McCandless is portrayed as a friendly, sociable person despite the fact that he was a vagabond. Other than McCandless, there are even more individuals that have taken the risks to live in the wilderness such as, Jon Krakauer and Everett Ruess. All three of them had both similarities and differences between their own qualities as a person and their journey.

All three adventurers displayed their affection for the wilderness through how they lived after leaving society. After reaching Fairbanks, Alaska, McCandless set up his camp and began to live off the wildlife nearby. In his journal, he noted what he caught each day and showed his gratefulness through his writing font. He believed that “it [wildlife] was morally indefensible to waste any part of an animal that has been shot for food” (166). He tried his best to preserve the animals he shot for food, which in turn displayed his thoughts of nature as something precious.

Krakauer also adored what nature had in store for his yearning for intriguing natural events. In is youth, he “devoted most of [his] waking hours to fantasizing about, and then undertaking, ascents of remote mounts in Alaska and Canada” (134). Shown by the time he spent dreaming, people can infer him as a person who deeply admires nature. At the age of eighteen, Ruess dreamed of living in the wilderness for the sake of fascination. He wandered to find events that could surprise him until his near death, in which he decided to find the more desolate place to die at:

And what magnificent country I have seen — wild, tremendous wasteland stretches, lost mesas, blue mountains rearing upward from the vermillion sands of the desert canyons five feet wide at the bottom and hundreds of feet deep, cloudbursts roaring down unnamed canyons, and hundreds of houses of the cliff dwellers, abandoned a thousand years ago. (92)

Given from Ruess’s journal entry, he is shown to adore nature by the descriptions he uses such as “vermillion sands” and by his strong use of verbs, “roaring”, to depict landscape he observes while traveling.

As a result of starting their trek, all three completely disregarded their parents’ final thoughts and expectations for them. After dropping out of college, McCandless refused to inform his parents of his whereabouts; instead, he chose to request the post office to return all letters back. A friend that McCandless met during his journey, Stuckey, “begged and pleaded with him to call his parents”, after discovering that he did not tell his parents where he was (160). Krakauer disappointed his father by the road he chose to take in his early youth. He spent his early youth doing something that he pursued “with a zeal bordering on obsession”, and “that something was mountain climbing” (134). Ruess did not directly disregard his parents’ expectations for him; however, he indirectly did so by constantly traveling which did not allow his parents know what occurred during most of his teenage life. Before traveling “he dropped out [of UCLA] after a single semester, to his father’s lasting dismay”, spent time with his parents for two extended visits and stayed in San Francisco during the winter (90).

Since their early childhoods, these three men were shown to be very engaged in their academia and enjoyed literature. According to Krakauer, “McCandless’s half-full backpack was his library: nine or ten paperbound books” (162). He carried books that he thought he would enjoy to read. Furthermore, he also based his pseudonym, Alex Supertramp, from a book called The Autobiography of a Super-Tramp. From his youth until now, Krakauer has been interested in literature; he wrote books such as Into Thin Air and Into the Wild that have made it to The New York Times Best Seller List. During his travels, Ruess wrote different types of literature especially poems. Ruess was considered a gifted painter, printmaker, and a natural poet.

Knowing that the wilderness can be extremely rough, people can understand that there is only a small chance of coming out alive after a long period of time of living there. McCandless and Ruess are examples of these instances; however, Krakauer lived to tell the story. McCandless suffered from starvation and natural disasters. He indicated all his struggles in his journal entries: “he’d written “4th day famine” in his journal” (164). After his ineffective attempt of leaving, he “turned around …back toward the bus” and died shortly (171). Although Ruess’s death was never confirmed, controversies revolved around the incident. Bewildering tales of his death included “death while scrambling on one or another canyon wall” and “[murdered] by a team of cattle rustlers” (94). Krakauer on the other hand, was the only individual out of the three to survive his expedition. In his narrative of his attempt at the Devil’s Thumb, he includes the phrase: “The climb was over” (144). This short sentence creates an artificial tone in which he expresses a very emotionless attitude after completing the harsh odyssey.

Throughout their youth, each adventurer experienced different childhoods from one another. This varied from their education to their family’s lifestyle. McCandless was a stellar student; he was academically superior with an A average and a dedicated runner. His family remained prosperous for many years after his parents “started a consultancy firm which became very successful” (Read). Krakauer developed a close relationship between himself and his father. He enjoyed “mountain climbing at the age of 8 with his father” (Morse). He continued a successful life and graduated from Hampshire College. Today he continues to craft bestselling books which have won several awards including the renowned Pulitzer Award. Ruess on the other hand, basically had no close relationships with his parents. He spent his nearly all his adolescence traveling Southwestern California, while only return home to collect his high school diploma. His only connection between his family members was sustained through sending letters home to his family in Los Angeles.

The choice of leaving society to live into the wilderness is a difficult one. The main reasons to leave urban culture of man between the three were unlike. McCandless completely loathed society and its regulations. He explains to Jim Gallien, a trucker that picked him up from a highway, that society was simple-minded and restrictive: “How I feed myself is none of the government’s business. Fuck their stupid rules” (6). Krakauer was aroused by “figures of male authority” such as McCandless (134). After little consideration of the trek, he was determined to climb the Devil’s Thumb. Ruess traveled since the age of sixteen; his expeditions ranged around Southwestern California. He spent most of his times traveling long distances with little parental advisory until his disappearance.

These three men have their own attributes both similar and diverse from one another. Ranging from childhood to thoughts on society to the details of their journey, they each had a vast amount of comparable attributes. Nature can be described as something magnificent and delightful. It’s all in the eye of the beholder and they saw it exactly alike. All three most probably have met their goal in life: living in nature’s beauty.

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